Even a team as exciting as the St. Louis Blues has questions about their future.
The St. Louis Blues are entering an incredibly exciting – and consequential – period in their franchise’s history.
After saying goodbye to some fan favorites, signing some big-name free agents, and winning a Stanley Cup not two years ago, the franchise is looking to perform a re-tool on the fly under experienced head coach Craig Berube without having to take too big of a step backward before pushing forward into a bright future.
Now saddled into the new West Division – arguably the weakest of the league’s four new divisions for the 2020-21 season – the Blues are borderline locks to make it to the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons, but can they punch their way through the likes of the Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild, and the Colorado Avalanche to earn a spot in the Conference Finals, or will they falter to a collection of new foes while trying to figure out how their roster exists in a post-Alex Pietrangelo world?
Will it work? Is this the year the Blues return to the NHL Finals and potentially bring another Stanley Cup home to St. Louis? Or will this be a step back year a la 2017-18 before the franchise can jump forward to greater successes when the world – and league – returns to normal in 2021-22?
Needless to say, the Blues have quite a few questions to answer moving forward – but for now, let’s focus on four, shall we?
4. Can Ryan O’Reilly galvanize the troops as a captain?
For the first time since 2016, the St. Louis Blues will enter a regular season without their fearless leader – and long-time captain – Alex Pietrangelo.
Now Pietrangelo’s departure is, was, and will continue to be the *spoiler alert* biggest story surrounding St. Louis moving forward, but an underrated aspect of the move is how his replacement, Ryan O’Reilly, will serve as the 23rd captain in the Blues’ storied history.
Originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, O’Reilly made his way to St. Louis in 2018 after a successful three-season stint with the Buffalo Sabres. While there are surely longer-tenured players on the Blues who could have been given the captorial nod – heck, even Vince Dunn has more season under his belt – few players on the roster have been as successful in the NHL as O’Reilly, and fewer still command the same level of respect.
The winner of both the Smythe and the Selke Trophy in his first season with the Blues, O’Reilly has unquestionably shored up Craig Berube’s top-six while giving the team a reliable 1b to Brayden Schenn in the middle of the ice.
If O’Reilly can provide that same level of stability in the locker room, it’ll go a long way to keep the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup conversation, even if they’ll still need to make defensive adjustments to *spoiler alerts, again* account for the loss of their best player.